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Running low on awful, possibly blasphemous Christmas gift ideas this year?

Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great schlock; kitsch shall be to all the people.

For unto you is placed this day under the tree in your living room a doll, which is Huggy Jesus!

Verily, for only $29.95, plus a mere $7.00 shipping and handling, your child can receive from you this “collectable, soft and cuddly, hypoallergenic” Jesus doll designed to let kids know how much the Lord loves them. By parting with a piddling 37 bucks, says HuggyJesus.com, “All can enjoy the warmth and comfort of Huggy Jesus.”

And there is a lot of warmth and comfort to go around. A picture on the site shows little children sleeping with their Jesus, nestled tightly in their arms. Another shows a little girl praying at her bedside with Jesus propped up against a pillow next to her. The possibilities for communicating Christ’s daily love are endless with this doll.

What if Jane or Johnny get Jesus dirty? No sweat, just toss “machine washable” Huggy Jesus in the laundry and a spotless savior will rise again. Moms can really impart Gospel lessons to kids by having Christ emerge from the dryer on the third day.

The creator of the doll, Sean Pinkerton, claims he was down on his luck in the post-dot.com economy and wandered into a church, destitute and praying for the first time in his life. According to the HuggyJesus.com website:

    As he was praying he looked up and saw a vision of Jesus on the altar, and Jesus seemed to be looking down to him. He seemed to beckon Sean to rise up and come in His direction.

    Jesus’ outstretched arms and loving gaze inspired Sean, who was so shaken by what he was experiencing, to cry openly. Tears were streaming down his face as he crawled onto the altar and gave Jesus a hug.

Powerful conversion story, true, but it only gets better from there: “That loving embrace inspired Sean to go out into the world and make a huggable doll in His image so the whole world could receive a hug from Jesus.”

Pinkerton’s motivation may be genuine and touching, but think of the disconnect between the experience he claims to have had and the one he offers: Pinkerton can’t guarantee that the living, resurrected Christ will hug everyone, but by making a doll in Christ’s image, he can sure guarantee that anyone willing to part with 37 smackers will get a hug from a cuddly Jesus knockoff. If readers share the opinion that such a deal is almost as good, then they and Huggy Jesus probably deserve each other.

But what about the real Jesus? He’s a little sweet and sappy, tender and touching, cute and cuddly, too, right?

(Cue game-show “wrong” buzzer here.)

The correct answer: No. The Scriptures give us an entirely different picture of Christ.

In the Gospel account, we see Christ running through the temple yard with a whip chasing out the money changers. Would Huggy Jesus do that?

Remember Christ’s showdowns with the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers and sons of Satan? I can’t really see Huggy Jesus raising his voice or calling names.

Then there’s the passage from Revelation picturing Christ on a war steed, robes dipped in blood, coming to conquer the enemies of the Lord. I’ll bet money Huggy Jesus prefers gumdrop ponies and valentines.

And what about the basic fact that Christ is the Lord and will someday judge the world? Huggy Jesus with pardons for all!

Which image of Jesus do we want our children to have?

In his classic, “Your God is Too Small,” J.B. Phillips warns about such a sugary conception of Christ. Refuting the “nice,” he questions why we think of Jesus as meek and mild:

    This word “mild” is apparently deliberately used to describe a man who did not hesitate to challenge and expose hypocrisies of the religious people of His day; a man who had such “personality” that He walked unscathed through a murderous crowd; a man so far from being a nonentity that He was regarded by authorities as a public danger; a man who could be moved to violent anger by shameless exploitation or by smug complacent orthodoxy; a man of such courage that He deliberately walked to what He knew would mean death, despite earnest pleas of well-meaning friends! Mild! What a strange word to use for a personality whose challenge and strange attractiveness 19 centuries later have by no means exhausted.

Christ was nice. He was gentle. But he was also assertive, commanding, powerful, even sometimes violent. We do our children a disservice if we make Him anything less – if, in Phillips’ lingo, we make Him “small.”

Children don’t learn how to appreciate other men of history – George Washington, Patrick Henry, etc. – by looking solely at their sweet sides. That would be an erroneous, slanted picture. How much more careful should we be when the person pictured is the Lord Christ?

Further reading:

“Get the Jesus Action Figure”

“Christian Schlock”


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